• Alistair Tait

The 12 Golfers of Christmas – The Cheat

Updated: Dec 29, 2021


Welcome to another Christmas series highlighting characterisations of golfers we’ve all played with over the years. The series proved so popular last year I’ve decided to repeat the exercise this Christmas, too.


Once again, I obviously pre-wrote these so I don’t have to write my daily blog over the holidays. Still no flies on me. In other words, I’m currently incommunicado enjoying time with my family; eating and drinking too much; and taking long walks, sadly without Izzy in tow.


Oh, Izzy. Merry Christmas my big lassie. Still miss you big time.


4. The Cheat


Sorry to inject an air of reality into this festive period but, yes, golf cheats exist. At all levels.


Whisper it, there are even people in the Golf Hall of Fame who’ve been accused of cheating.


The professional tours don’t want to talk about the C word. They sell golf to sponsors partly because of its honour and integrity; the last thing they want to do is sully that image and risk corporate dollars. They may run slogans like these guys are good, or these girls rock, but they’re not all are good and some roll the wrong way.


Not many, but there are cheats. In fact, cheating is surprisingly rare in the professional game. I can probably count the number of “cheating incidents” I’ve come across in my career on the fingers of one hand. You’d be inclined to think the professional tours would rather deal with such matters behind closed doors.


Surely not?


As I said, thankfully those who play fast and loose with the rules are in the minority. But many of us have encountered cheats. And I’m not talking about innocent mistakes caused by ignorance of the Rules of Golf.


First time it happened to me was on the seventh hole of Wentworth’s East course in a society outing. One member of the three ball pulled his shot left of the green. We all looked for the ball. After four minutes, the player shouted that he’d found it. I was confused: he was standing over the ball in an area I’d just walked through, an area of bare ground.


I told him I’d just walked through that exact place and the ball wasn’t there.

“You obviously missed it, then,” he said.
“How could I miss it, it’s sitting up like a peach? I replied.”
“Well you obviously did, because it’s right here.”

We had a stare off. It was my word against his because the third member of the group was searching in a different place. Not the greatest of situations. I just shook my head and carried on. I didn’t speak to him for the rest of the round, or play with him again.


We all know who the cheats are whether we belong to a golf club, a group of friends who play on a regular basis, golf societies, etc. Those professional tours I talked about? Players on the pro circuits know who the cheats are.


Confronting cheats isn’t easy, as the situation above proves. When it’s your word against someone else’s then it’s not exactly a win-win situation. Many just try to steer clear of the cheat. Mind you, there is strength in numbers.


I recall playing with someone many years ago who, let’s say, had a reputation for the leather mashie. Everything was fine until we came to the par-5, 11th hole. I’d pull hooked my drive into oblivion. Leather Mashie had also pulled his tee shot, albeit not as badly. His ball had come to rest in a group of trees where, if he got the rub of the green, he could punch a shot down the fairway and still have a chance of making par.


No such luck. Leather Mashie’s ball was behind a tree, leaving him no option but to chip the ball back into play.


He had other ideas.


As I trudged towards my wayward shot, out of the corner of my eye I saw his right foot kick the ball clear of the tree.


I wish I could say I walked over and confronted him.


I didn’t, to my shame. I prevaricated since it was my word against his. My partner and I were four up at the time, Leather Mashie was playing poorly and there was no way he and his playing partner were going to beat us. I decided to stay schtum on the basis that a confrontation would just ruin my round.


Guess what? Staying schtum ruined my round.


I resolved to confront said individual if I played with him again. I took him to task next time we played together when he took a preferred lie even though his ball wasn’t on fairway, but in the first cut. He played the innocence card by claiming he thought he was on the fairway.


I had a word with other members of the group afterwards, telling them I wasn’t comfortable with Leather Mashie’s approach to golf. On the next gathering, he was paired with three members of the group known for their forthright manners.


It was his last round within the group. All three witnessed him improving his lie and took him to task. I don’t know if Leather Mashie still plays the game. If he is, I hope he’s had a Road to Damascus moment. Probably not since once a cheat….


I’m just happy I don’t have to play with him anymore. I’m also happy these are the only two incidents of cheating I’ve encountered during my time playing this great game.


Confronting cheats isn’t easy, but it has to be done.


#JustSaying: “You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank as to praise him for playing by the rules.” Bobby Jones

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